Monday, January 9, 2012


1Q84 is the most recent novel by the acclaimed by Japanese author Haruki Murakami. The novel's main characters are Anomame and Tengo. Anomame is a physical trainer. She moonlights as an assassin. Tengo is a math instructor and inspiring novelist who is involved in a complex literary fraud. At first, there is no apparent connection between the two, but their stories eventually intersect dramatically.

The novel is set in a 1984 that is slightly "off" and events become increasingly unusual as the story progresses. Anomame calls the year 1Q84 to distinguish it from the "real" 1984 once it occurs to her that things are not quite as they should be. (For instance, in 1Q84 there are two moons.) Only Anomame and Tengo seem to notice that anything is amiss.

1Q84 is over 900 pages long, so it is a bit of a commitment -- though worth it in my opinion. The plot is complex, the characters are very well developed and engaging, and Murakami writes with a fluid and entertaining style. I found it hard to stop reading once I began.

This is the first of his books that I have read, but I know it will not be the last.


Saturday, November 5, 2011

Case Histories: a Novel

I came across Case Histories through Masterpiece Theater. I am really enjoying the TV program and couldn't wait to read the book that the program is based on.

Private investigator Jackson Brodie has 3 cases to solve. He is an interesting detective -- a former police officer with authority issues and a childhood tragedy that still haunts him. He relates to his clients' pain and can't say no to cases that he should turn down. He does not solve mysteries through forensics and is not terribly concerned with legalities; he simply wants to get answers to help his clients. What the clients choose to do with the answers is entirely up to them.  

The cases are told  from the clients' perspectives as well as Brodie's. The narrative hops from client to client and jumps back and forth through time until slowly the various pieces come together and the answers are revealed.

I think I was expecting the novel's narrative to mirror the TV show and have a linear time line (with certain key flashbacks). It took a bit for me to adjust to the storytelling, but it was enjoyable read.


Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Affair

The Affair is another solid, exciting novel by Lee Child. In it we learn about the early days of the elite military cop Jack Reacher and how his unusual lifestyle came to be. The Affair answers many perplexing questions for Reacher fans and fills in the blanks on Reacher's past.

For the growing number of fans of Lee Child, The Affair is a novel of unrelenting suspense and an intriguing murder investigation fraught with political ramifications, and it is the beginning of Reacher's problem-solving, drifter lifestyle.


Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

I finally got around to reading Stieg Larsson's mega best-seller, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. For a while it was hard to get my hands on a copy: while we have multiple copies, the book was so popular that they were always checked out.

The plot revolves around two characters, a reporter and an asocial computer hacker, the eponymous tattooed "girl." The reporter is hired by a wealthy industrialist to write his biography, but there are strings attached and skeletons in closets. Mayhem and mystery ensue.

Verdict: B+. It is an engaging page-turner that keeps you guessing until the end. But like all books in this genre it requires some suspension of disbelief. You should also be warned that this is an extremely violent book and most of the violence is directed against women. Fans of the book might argue that this was necessary for character motivation, but it wore thin after a while and could have been toned down without affecting the book negatively.


If you like Stieg Larsson try these authors too:

Arnaldur Indridason
Jo Nesbo

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Booklamp and Reading Recommendations

A new site called Booklamp claims to use a sophisticated software to analyze patters in a book's content. It then uses this information to match a book or author you like to other books or authors that you might like. There are many sites that claim to do this and some do it better than others. I tried a few searches and Booklamp seems to work pretty well. But it is new, so we will have to wait and see. Check it out.


Sunday, July 31, 2011

Iron House

John Hart's Iron House is an amazing, cleverly written novel. As soon as I finished the first paragraph I knew that it was a winner.

The plot centers around two orphaned brothers who live at the decrepit Iron House, a home for boys in the mountains of North Carolina. Michael, who is the oldest, is the tough one. He protects his younger brother Julian from bullying. After a tragedy the boys are separated. and do not reunite until later in life. To reveal much more than this would spoil the plot. Suffice it to say that this is a story of fierce family loyalty and buried secrets. Be prepared -- this is a page-turner.


If you enjoy this book you may also like Hart's other novels:
The King of Lies
Down River

You might also enjoy the works of Pat Conroy.

Thursday, July 28, 2011


John Williams's 1965 novel, Stoner, is the most moving work of fiction I have read in a very long time, and I am afraid that I will not be able to adequately explain why I feel that way. But I will try.

On its surface, the plot of Stoner is very spare: William Stoner grows up in straightened circumstances on a midwest farm, gets a break, goes to agricultural college, falls surprisingly in love with English literature, gets s PhD, a teaching job, a wife, a daughter, a long career. Then he dies. The beauty of the story is how brilliantly Williams describes Stoner's hopes, passions, heartbreaks and his dogged pursuit of an academic accomplishment he can be proud of -- one that will, perhaps, adequately honor his deep love for literature. It is left to the reader to decide whether he achieves this (or whether it matters if he does). Along the way, we witness Stoner's bleak family life, juxtaposed with a brief, happy interlude and the life he might have lived had he chosen differently.

Williams's prose is perfect for the task: simple and clear, with no misplaced words.

Reviews of this work that I have read often contain comments such as "I can't believe this book is not more famous." I agree.